The annual Haiti Beneﬁt dinner on Feb. 7 will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the massive earthquake which struck the country on Jan. 12, 2010. The disaster claimed over 300,000 lives, left 1.5 million homeless and another 1.5 million injured. Although the devastation focused on the capital, Port au Prince, the entire country was affected and the northwest Haitian town of Gros Morne received a wave of refugees.
To address their needs, the Friends of Gros Morne Committee was established with its fundraising counterpart the Lincoln County Ecumenical Committee for Haiti. Since that time, the Ecumenical Committee has raised close to $100,000 to support activities of the Friends Committee. Over the years the Friends Committee has shifted its priorities to focus on longer term development projects which directly impact the poorest inhabitants of Gros Morne.
Proceeds from 10 annual Lincoln County dinners have been used in two main areas: support for schools such as repairs and latrine construction, hot lunches, books and supplies, uniforms, and scholarships; and for improving the incomes of poor women by supporting improved qualities of goats, chickens and roosters and training in basic market literacy. Support has also been provided regularly for housing for the indigent elderly.
Although it has been 10 years since the 2010 earthquake, aftershocks have continued. Another quake in 2018 more directly hit Gros Morne causing loss of life and major structural damage, including to schools being supported by the Friends Committee. This past year, the shocks have been man made: continuing widespread turmoil, protests and violence stemming from the troubled political system. Schools were closed for much of 2019 but are now functioning again in Gros Morne. Food production and distribution has been disrupted with prices skyrocketing.
“The needs are so great that we have themed this year’s dinner SOS Haiti,” says Ecumenical Committee Chair Sharon Marchi of Bremen. To respond to this year’s challenges, the Friends Committee has asked for continued support for schooling, especially for hot school lunches which take on added importance in light of the food crisis. School supplies, books and uniforms are an annual priority. (Note: Uniforms are required in all schools and can be beyond the means of a poor family with several children).
The committee has also asked for continued support for the family enterprise project begun last year centered on the provision of improved quality roosters and chickens to poor families and is proposing a new project this year to provide quality seeds. Farm inputs are accompanied by training.
The dinner will take place on Friday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at St Patrick’s Church in Damariscotta Mills. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for children and are available at Sherman’s Maine Coast Bookshops (Damariscotta and Boothbay Harbor), Skidompha Library and Ecumenical Committee members at various Lincoln County churches. A host committee is in formation at $135 per person or couple. To join the host committee, please call Dean Curran, 380-5103. Membership includes two tickets to the dinner.
Haitian inspired food is being prepared by the Damariscotta River Grill and Haitian coffee and rum punch will be on the menu. Last year’s popular Haitian rum cake will also reappear. Noted auctioneer John Bottero of Thomaston Place Galleries will reprise his popular role as Master of the Pledging Ceremony in which diners may choose which projects they wish to support.
To donate, for more information or to volunteer to help, please call dinner Chair Sharon Marchi at 529-5239.